In an unprecedented move, a global coalition is calling for universal access to health services for people everywhere, and to bring this issue to the forefront of the national healthcare agenda.
Universal health coverage signifies reaching everyone, everywhere with high-quality health care, without suffering severe financial hardship when using these health services.
Did you know? Every year, billions of people worldwide cannot pay for medications that they require, nor can they access needed medical services, without falling into poverty and experiencing financial distress.
On 12 December, as part of the Political Declaration of the High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), including cancer, the UN adopted a resolution supporting the goal of universal health coverage for all. Consequently, it has been resolved that each year, as of 2014, the entire world will set the 'Health for All' target and will ensure leaders' commitment to fulfilling this plan.
The Israel Cancer Association has joined as an official supporter of this noteworthy initiative.
Health For All. Now more than ever.....
Why is 'Health For All' so important?
Because nobody should go bankrupt to access healthcare: Worldwide, 1 billion people lack basic health care, and 100 million fall into poverty every year trying to access needed health services.
Because universal health coverage is attainable:
Over 70 countries of all income levels have taken steps to ensure access to quality health coverage, without impairing their economies.
Because universal health coverage can stop the world's biggest killers:
When high-quality health care is accessible to all, we can prevent and treat life-threatening diseases and save lives.
Because health changes communities, economics and nations:
Every dollar that is invested in health today can produce up to $20 in full-income growth within the next 20 years.
Universal health coverage creates stable health systems, which have 2 main advantages: in times of crisis, health minimizes the shock to lives and livelihoods, and also promotes community cohesion and economic productivity.
Because health is a right and not a privilege:
Access to quality health care should never depend on where a person lives, how much money he or she has, or his or her age, race or gender.
The World Health Organization's constitution affirms that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right and more than half of the world's countries have included the right to health, public health or medical care in their national constitutions.
What Does Health Stand in Israel?
The National Health Insurance bill initiated and pushed through the legislative pipeline by former Minister of Health, Haim Ramon, established the fundamental right of each and every Israeli citizen to health services according to the health package as set forth by law.
The problems began in 1998, when the Parallel Tax Law was revoked, as it was deemed "hypocritical" to implement this law for financing the update of the Israel's health care package. Since the erosion of the Medications and Technologies Package, there is no regular update, and time and again, there is a constant need to take action on the scope of the health care package update. There were years when the package was not even updated. A situation ensued whereby, for years, the health care package disintegrated, and Israeli citizens were forced to pay more out of their own pocket, and the government provided less and less, resulting in the absence of equitable access to healthcare.
Many bills were raised from the entire political spectrum, regarding the establishment of a regulated mechanism, which would ascertain the update of the health care package, but they did not "develop" into law.
When it comes to cancer patients, for instance, biological drugs cost thousands of shekels a month. Even patients of the upper middle class cannot bear this onus. Consequently, they experience financial distress and great frustration, when there is a drug or a procedure that may help transform a deadly disease into a chronic one, or prevent recurrence by 50%! A case in point would be breast cancer patients with protein overexpression.
When such a drug is not included in the health care package, the patient and his or her family are forced to publicize their financial distress, seek assistance, and sometimes even sell their home, etc.
It is important to note that the Israel National Council of Oncology, in collaboration with the Israeli Society Clinical Oncology & Radiation Therapy (ISCORT), is conducting in-depth and intensive preparatory work to indicate which drugs are scientifically justified for incorporating in the healthcare package.
In 2007 when Economic Arrangements law encompassed the annulment of a decision made several months earlier to authorize the inclusion of life-saving drugs in the "Other Health Services" plans, the Patient Rights Association and the Israel Cancer Association submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of Justice in an attempt to prevent this strategy to "bypass the Knesset (Israeli parliament)", and to promote a genuine public discussion.
And this was what was written in the petition that we filed:
Alongside the cancellation of "Other Health Services", if the government would see to the appropriate and regular update of the health care package, such that it would be updated on a regular basis.....the necessary reform amendments would be comprehensible; however, the cancellation of these additions, which instill hope in patients who otherwise cannot obtain medications, while failing to provide these patients with any alternative, is literally making a mockery of them.
It should also be noted that the then Director Generals of the Clalit Health Services and Maccabi Healthcare Services declared that they would also provide coverage for patients who were in need who were not insured for Other Health Services. However, the petition was overturned by the Knesset Finance Committee, where a specific arrangement was reached, bringing "industrial quiet", but no real solution to the problem.
Recently, leading oncologists contacted the Minister of Health, MK Yael German, with a request to amend this situation that has ensued, which discriminates between cancer patients.
New ICA Survey on Public Attitudes on 'Health For All'
A telephone omnibus survey of a representative sample consisting of 500 men and women, aged 18 years or older, was conducted in December 2014 by Geocartographia Institute.
To determine the public's essential readiness to make an extra monthly payment for supplemental insurance (Other Health Services - Shaban) at HMOs, which encompasses potentially life-saving drugs that are not included in the national health care package.
Likewise, the interviewees were asked about their readiness to pay a monthly add-on charge for supplemental insurance at HMOs, to make this coverage accessible to underprivileged populations.
In addition, the survey reviewed the public's support for raising the basic health tax, in exchange for the cancellation of the deductible for drug purchases, thereby enabling underprivileged patients to obtain needed medications.
About half (51.7%) of the public attested to essential readiness to pay an estimated monthly add-on charge in the amount of NIS 47 for supplemental insurance, to include potentially life-saving drugs that are not included in the national health care package.
Older subjects (aged 55 or older) are ready to add a higher sum each month than young adults, on average an add-on charge in the amount of NIS 63 a month, compared to an add-on charge in the amount of NIS 41 a month for subjects aged 55 and under.
No significant differences emerged between men and women; however, high-income earners expressed readiness to pay more, an add-on charge of NIS 51 a month, compared to NIS 42 which subjects with earnings below the average proposed.
Over half the population (56.3%), attested to essential readiness to pay an estimated monthly add-on charge of NIS 40 on average for the supplemental insurance, to ensure that underprivileged members of the population, who cannot afford supplemental insurance, are covered.
The average sum that people would be prepared to add on a monthly basis increases with age, and decreases as income increases: subjects with earnings below the average are prepared to pay a monthly add-on charge of NIS 45, compared to above average income earners, who are prepared to pay a monthly add-on charge of NIS 34.
About 60% of the public attest to the fact that they would be prepared to pay an extra 1% health tax to cancel the deductible for drugs purchased, thereby enabling underprivileged patients to obtain the drugs they require.
Residents of the geographical peripheries of Israel (north and south), expressed a greater willingness to pay an add-on charge in addition to the health tax; 72% of the respondents residing in the south and 67% of those residing in the north, on the one hand, as opposed to 50% of subjects residing in the Sharon region, on the other.